Coll The Coll Magazine

Article by Unknown (1991)

Lachlan Neil MacDonald
Lachlan Neil MacDonald.
10th Jan 1912 28th Jan 1990.

Air an toraibh aithnichidh sibh iad.
(Mata VII 16)

Lachie was a Collach, one of three brothers and two sisters. He was born at 5 Shore Street, as it was then known, and attended Arinagour School, in the building now occupied by Coll Herbals. In his own typically humerous fashion we were given his account of the duties of these brothers and sisters in the matter of drying the peats, in Coll Magazine of 1984.

At the age of 12 Lachie left school to work with his father who was gardener at the Lodge, which at that time was part of the Coll Estate. Later, he spent four years as a farm worker at Ballard, owned by the McFadyen brothers and sister.

Lachie worked again for Coll Estate under General Stewart who was also owner of Breacachadh. During the 1939-45 war Lachie was the Lodge gardener and, sometimes ghillie. In November 1951, in Oban, he married Katina, whose family were MacDonalds of Balephuil, Tiree. Katina and Lachie then moved into the Garden House, and it was there Lachie made his own first garden, outside the walls.

In 1957 Lachie won the Coll Agricultural and Horticultural Society medal, and for 7 years, until 1961, he held the Horticultural Cup at the Coll Show. He was a regular exhibitor and prizewinner in both Amateur and Open classes at Tobermory Horticultural Society. He also won a medal presented by Amateur Gardening Magazine for merit in horticulture. In 1958 the prestigious Banksian medal was presented to Lachie for most points awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society, and on several occasions he won the Challenge Cup for the best exhibits in vegetables.

Another activity for which Lachie gained merit was his membership of the Coast Life Saving Corps whose Long Service medal he received in 1961. Among wrecks he attended in the course of duty were the famous Nevada and Tapiti. As he mentioned in his account of cutting the peats, his treise gearr blade was a by-product of the Nevada wreck.

After 18 years with Coll Estate, and with all his horticultural awards to his credit, in 1962 Lachie was appointed gardener at Kinlochlaich, in Appin, the property of Mr. E.A. Hutcheson. He and Katina left Coll to take up house in the gardener's cottage there, and there, it might be said, Lachie blossomed. He had in his care greenhouses, orchard trees and vegetables as well as flowers. He designed and made a water garden which, sadly, is now buried under a complex of holiday flats.

On his 'retiral' in 1975, Lachie and Katina returned to Coll. Soon, several gardens flourished under his care, notably at the Hotel. Mrs. Crotty's at 'Highland Corrie' became a magical transformation from raw moorland, and the Craigdarroch garden also owed much to his work. Not least was Lachie's own beautiful little garden, characteristically hidden from public view, but remarkable in its colourful variety of charming rockery plants, disciplined vegetables, berry bushes and flowering shrubs, and of course, the splendid peat shack.

It was in 1953 that the title deeds of 5 Shore Street, Arinagour, were transferred for the purchase price of 30 from C.K.M. Stewart, Laird of Coll, to the MacDonald family. In this same house, immaculately painted by himself every summer, where he was born, Lachie died. That had always been his wish. The garden he made with loving labour, now tended by Katina, is a fitting memorial to a modest man who many a time in the Free Kirk had sung with conviction:

S le Dia an talamh is a lan.
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Lachlan Neil MacDonald article

Lachlan Neil MacDonald article
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